Fireballs of Freedom

Pink & Brown reconfigures rock with colorful costumes, propulsive punk tunes, and a few broken bones

The third piece of this conceptual triangle is Pink & Brown's live show, which also involves reformulating cultural norms. Inspired by groundbreaking acts like the Stooges as much as newer groups like Japan's King Brothers, Pink & Brown jabs its performances under the skin of its audiences -- and then joins them. "I've had people take my guitar away and just start playing it," Pink says. "I'll see it getting passed to other people. Having physical contact with the audience forces them to enjoy themselves, though. It's all about participation."

Pink & Brown often sets up in the middle of the crowd, as opposed to onstage, forcing people to huddle in from every angle. "It's our idea of being populist," says Brown. "We want to be on the same level as everyone else. They're all in our show too."

While this unconventional live style has its fans now, Pink admits that it wasn't always the case. "At first, no one gave a flying fuck," he says. "Our shows were really poorly attended, and we were getting billed with bands that were ridiculously bad or really different from us."

Pink & Brown: Da do dada.
Pink & Brown: Da do dada.

"[Pink] would basically fall on the floor in the beginning of the first song and unplug all his stuff," says Brown, "and I would play an extended drum solo, while he squirmed around with the mike in his mouth, taking people's drinks. It was a pretty self-destructive band for a while, and we've also realized we need to give people a little time to warm up to us. Because, otherwise, they can be pretty taken aback; we're really confrontational."

Brown adds that Pink was formerly cursed with "Lead Singer Disease," a condition a friend coined to describe a total carelessness for one's own body in the name of art -- furthered sometimes by too many drugs. In the beginning, Pink would roll around in shattered glass or allow wildly excited fans to bite him on the crotch. For one particular show in Philadelphia, Pink downed several Vicodin painkillers and thrashed around in the audience, breaking a couple of ribs and all of the band's instruments. "Iggy Pop teaches people a lot," says Pink with a grin. "Mostly, that if you think you're indestructible, most of the time you will be, except when you puncture a lung. We've mellowed out a lot now."

Mellowing out may mean fewer trips to the emergency ward, but there's still plenty of action at a Pink & Brown performance. The energy of its live show actually aided the group in getting a record deal.

Jack Van Buren is co-owner of ToYo Records, the local label that recently released Pink & Brown's debut, Final Foods. Van Buren describes the label's roster as very diverse, but with one common thread: All the artists have memorable live shows. "We tend to work with a lot of bands that are known as much -- if not more -- for their performances as their recordings," he says, naming off bands like Zeek Sheck, Erase Errata, and Baby Patrol. "When you pay to see a show, you want something to remember, and I think Pink & Brown is definitely on top of that."

Pink & Brown has only just begun its campaign against play-by-numbers rock 'n' roll. The pair is currently on the road, touring the U.S. with Providence's Lightning Bolt. When the act returns to San Francisco, Pink hopes to play in unconventional settings such as on random Financial District street corners and outside the 16th Street BART station, while Brown fantasizes about setting up his kit at upscale department stores like Nordstrom's. There are also plans for short films about Pink & Brown, which Brown says will have nothing to do with music. "It's the big evolution of us turning into our characters more, finding out who we are as Pink & Brown," he says.

Before you think this is just another art school, too-high-concept-for-you kind of band, Pink adds, "We have some great ideas, but I want them to be dada-esque andfunny -- where people will say, "What does that mean?,' but laugh at the same time. Hopefully, we'll get to make out with some girls too."

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